Everyone who lives in New York City has a unique and interesting story. For this edition of New York Tennis Magazine, we had a chance to speak with one of New York’s most influential supporters of tennis to hear her New York City tennis story—Midtown Tennis Club’s Director Jennifer Brown.
Tell us a little about your tennis background and personal life.
I started playing tennis when I was five-years-old in New Jersey. I loved it and couldn’t get enough. My mom had to drag me off the courts. I played after school and played in high school, and I was an assistant tennis pro in the summers during high school. In college, I played for Ithaca College and still loved it. I wanted to major in sports management, and at the time, it wasn’t officially offered, so I had to double as a business major and try to get the sports management degree at the same time. Finally in my senior year, they passed the major, and I was the first graduating student with a degree in sports management from Ithaca. From there, I did an internship at Madison Square Garden with the Virginia Slims Championship which, at the time, was the culmination of the top 16 women on the tour. During this time, I was playing at Midtown Tennis Club and I was 22-years-old, trying to find my way in the city and playing with my brother late at night to get a cheap rate. He gave me the idea to take a part-time job at Midtown so we could play free tennis. So I came to interview with Midge Moore, who was director of tennis for Midtown at the time. She had an opening as her assistant manager, bookkeeper and program director were about to leave. I knew I could handle all of those jobs, so she took me on and little by little I developed more responsibilities and when she retired I took over her position.
Could you give us a little history and background on Midtown Tennis Club?
What I have heard, is that Midtown was originally built to be a bowling alley in the early 1960s. Prior to the lease being signed, a businessman and tennis enthusiast came in and changed the property configuration to be an indoor Har-Tru tennis club. The bubble was later added to the rooftop for the accommodation of four additional courts and here we are today. Midtown is New York City’s original indoor tennis club.
What would you say makes Midtown Tennis Club unique?
Although there is limited space behind the baseline, Midtown Tennis Club is a great to play indoor, clay tennis, inside of a building in NYC. The best thing about Midtown Tennis is that there is something for everybody. We don’t require a membership, so even if you’re visiting from out of town, you could play here during your stay. You can participate in all of our programs and events, parties, camps, etc. We offer a variety of programs and do our best to include all tennis fans of all ages.
What made you decide to choose a career in the tennis industry?
It happened purely by accident. Once I graduated and did my internship, I knew I wanted to work in professional sports. I had a connection in the National Football League (NFL), but found it extremely difficult to tap into the industry as a woman despite my connections. So I started to realize that being at Midtown could offer me a career should I reach Midge’s level of position. I hung in there for 10 years and it worked out in the end. I love tennis and love being around the game and couldn’t imagine doing anything else at this point. I also still try to play tennis as much as I can.
How is playing tennis different in NYC than other places?
It is so different! I grew up playing tennis in New Jersey where there are courts all over the place, indoor and outdoor, and you don’t need to pay by the hour. In my junior program, I played three days a week from 3:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m., took privates and practiced often. This seems impossible for the juniors in the city. The courts in the city are also more scarce compared to other places, so it is definitely more difficult to play as often here as in the suburbs or more rural areas. There is a lot of competition to get on the courts at Midtown during prime time hours.
What is your favorite part of your job?
The favorite part of my job is meeting all the different people who love tennis as much as we do here. I also enjoy when the Grand Slams are on and all of the tennis pros and customers are around and we are all debating who we think will win and all of the different political things going on with tournaments. Watching people play and improve their game is also an aspect of the job which I love.
Anything else you would like NYC tennis players to know about you or your club?
We have the best location, we have the best prices, and we have indoor clay courts. We have a great staff of pros and many have been here for 20-plus years. They are great teachers, ranging in experience from Davis Cup Players and coaches to former Division I players. It is a very special place to play, and we have something to offer players of all ages and levels.